Fascism in America

September 14, 2008

Folks, we have real problems in this country.  You are probably thinking that I am going to talk about the endless wars we are fighting, the high incarceration rate of our citizenry or the economic collapse that is just around the corner.  Instead of discussing these issues directly, I would like to address the underlying cause of these problems – America’s slow but sure movement to fascism.

In 1944, the great journalist, John T. Flynn published the book “As We Go Marching”.  In the book, Flynn sought to nail down exactly what characteristics make up a fascist system.  He dissected Mussolini’s “state capitalism” and Hitler’s “national socialism” and found commonalities between the two systems – commonalities which together he used to form his definition for fascism.  There were many commonalities but in the interest of brevity the seven most important will be mentioned here.  Thus, according to Flynn fascism as it was practiced in Italy and Germany was a system where:  1. the government had powers which were unrestrained; 2. a leader, who was the dictator, had absolute power; 3. the characteristics of capitalism were allowed to operate; 4. it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that the capitalist system functioned at top capacity;  5. government used public debt to stimulate the economy; 6. the economy operated through the principle of syndicalism; 7. militarism and imperialism were imbedded in the system as a necessary means to employ the masses and further the goals of the state.  He concluded that ironically the United States had actually adopted these same practices to fight the scourge of fascism found in Italy and Germany.  An analysis of the modus operandi of the U.S. government today would yield the same conclusion. 

Beginning with the concept that our government has powers which are unrestrained, it is true that we have a Constitution that is supposed to rein in the power of all levels of government in the U.S.  But, when was the last time you heard any politician (besides Ron Paul) in this country mention the Constitution before government action?  Where is the Constitutional authority for the feds to take over Fannie and Freddie, broker the deal which sold Bear Stearns to J.P. Morgan, and wiretap without a court’s approval the phone lines of citizens?  Many times the Constitution takes a back seat to what the politicians believe are good intentions.  Good intentions are the problem; unrestrained power is the consequence.

George Bush more than any other president, except FDR, has built an imperial presidency.  He is in many respects a leader who has absolute power.  This absolute power has been granted not through military dominance but through political acquiescence.  In the name of homeland security through the so-called “Patriot Act” he has been allowed to expand the federal government’s ability to use wiretaps without judicial oversight; has made it far easier for the government to monitor private internet usage; has authorized “sneak and peek” warrants enabling federal authorities to search a person’s home, office, or personal property without that person’s knowledge; and has required libraries and bookstores to turn over records of books read by their patrons.  He has also been allowed to perpetrate an illegal war started under false pretenses.  The Democrats, who took back Congress on the pledge to end the war, are not even talking about it anymore.  More recently, the president exercised unconstitutional unilateral power by giving the Treasury Department the go ahead to nationalize Fannie and Freddie without even a congressional vote.  Does the move set a precedent for future nationalizations of private companies? 

No one can argue that the characteristics of capitalism do not exist in the United States.  Examples include the means of production and property being held in private hands.  It is also true that since FDR’s New Deal, the government has assumed responsibility for ensuring that our capitalist system functions at top capacity.  Of course this author would dispute that the government has been successful at this endeavor, but the point is that through the Federal Reserve Bank’s regulating the money supply, bureaucratic regulation, and the ability to bailout and nationalize private firms to protect the economy the U.S. government has acted in accordance with fascist doctrine to guarantee smooth functioning of our markets.

The fifth tenet of fascism mentioned above is government using public debt to stimulate the economy.  Currently, the national debt of the United States is $9 trillion.  This is a result of military spending, which we will get to in a moment, but also spending on social programs and projects to stimulate the economy.  This spending includes welfare programs, both individual and corporate, old-age pensions, earmarks to congressional districts, and stimulus checks.  Uncle Sam has wrongly adopted the view like the Italian and German fascist of the early Twentieth Century, that spending is the key to economic success.  Instead, like the Italian and German fascist states, it will prove to be the undoing of the economy.  Nevertheless, the fifth tenet of fascism is met.

Syndicalism is trickier to pinpoint in the United States, but it can be done.  Mussolini’s syndicalism involved the owners of business and their workers coming together in guilds to decide the issues of production, distribution, labor, and credit for their industry.  The closest we have come to this in America is probably through FDR’s National Recovery Administration (NRA) of the 1930s.  Businesses, which included both the owners and employees, were rewarded for compliance with NRA benchmarks by receiving a “Blue Eagle” which they could “proudly” display in their establishments.  The system was voluntary, but non-compliance could have resulted in government organized boycotts of firms.

Currently, syndicalism in the U.S. is a bastardized form of the traditional model of Mussolini’s.  Right now, at this very moment, company executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch are meeting with Federal Reserve and Treasury Department officials to decide how best to dispense with the troubled Lehman Brothers firm.  It is all being done behind closed doors and in the absence of employees.  Even though these two important facets of syndicalism are absent, the government appointed financial industry guild will decide this matter.  This is syndicalism nevertheless albeit American style.

Finally, tenet number 7 – militarism and imperialism are being used in the United States to employ the masses and further the ends of the state.  In 2007, U.S. military spending accounted for 45 percent of the world’s total!  Military expenditures have increased by 59 percent in real terms since 2001.  We are currently spending the largest amount of money on defense than at any other time since World War II.  Why has all this happened?  Certainly, the Administration would blame the so called “War on Terrorism”.  But it also believes like most administrations since the end of World War II that healthy military spending means a healthy economy – the more people that are working the more money that will be spent to sustain the economy.  Military spending is another reference to tenets 4 and 5 which say jointly that the government is responsible for sustaining the capitalist system through public debt.

Not unlike the militarism of fascist Italy and Germany, all of this military spending has to find a way to be used.  Imperialism is the natural outlet.  The United States has military bases in at least 60 countries.  She is fighting wars in two (Iraq and Afghanistan), threatening one (Iran), and carrying out extensive military operations in another (Pakistan).  All is done in the name of American security (an end of the state).  Really it is done for other ends of our state like to perpetuate an American Empire, punish states we do not like, and secure the flow of oil.  This imperialism represents the ends of our state because we have leaders who are ethnocentric, self-righteous, and greedy.

Without question, it is difficult to come to the conclusion that your country is perhaps no less fascist than Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany.  It is historical fact that Mussolini killed endless opponents of his regime and Hitler sought to exterminate whole races of people.  Is the U.S. any less guilty for the deaths of over 1.5 million Iraqis because they were collateral damage of a war?  To rationalize ignoring the facts, some may even ask, besides genocide what is so bad about fascism?  The answer to that would be:  because it is not the government laid out in our Constitution; because a truly capitalist system rewards good decisions, punishes bad decisions and is for the good of the people not the state; because a small government with a balanced budget is the best way to ensure the rights of citizens and the value of its currency; and because militarism and imperialism are inherently immoral, wasteful, and historically have more often than not been one of the main causes of empire collapse.      

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